NEW ALBANY, IN (WAVE) - The Salvation Army's Angel Tree bears fruit riper than the Christmas it provides for about 600 families in Clark and Floyd Counties.
"We start in January, February with what's left over from last year," said volunteer Cathy Marking, a registered nurse at Kosair Children's Hospital. "Everything has to be sorted, as you can tell by age and sex."
Friday's preparations ended at 6:30 p.m. She returned for the "big show", distribution before 7 Saturday morning.
"If I got paid a dime an hour, I'd be retired," she laughed. "Actually, she would be retired--she's been doing it thirty-four-years."
Marking was referring to her sister, Bev Woodruff.
"My husband and I started helping and it just kind of evolved from that," Woodruff said.
In all, a baker's dozen family members, branched across three generations and five states including Woodruff's husband Wayne and their niece, Cathy's daughter, Emily McCaffery. She and her husband Sean are expecting their first child in April. And then there's Emily's brothers, Sam and Andrew Marking, and their dad, Chuck.
But Angel Tree isn't all that's brought them home this Christmas.
"Our parents both passed away a week ago," Woodruff said.
Jim Anson was 91. Felicia Anson was 92. They'd been a couple for 68 years.
"They grew up about a mile and a half apart from each other," Marking said.
And slipped the bonds of Earth within hours of each other.
"We've had our time, we've had our share of tears," Marking said. "Oh, my gosh I can't believe this happened."
"Dad's biggest thing was he didn't want to be a bother," Woodruff said. "So we have to make things go on so that he is not a bother."
Both embodied the 'Greatest Generation's' hallmark of service.
Francis 'Jim' Anson served aboard the Navy oiler USS Lakawanna in World War II. He had retired as Principal of Lillian Emery Elementary School in New Albany. He's also a Free & Accepted Mason and member of Kiwanis.
Felicia Anson had worked in the administrative offices of New Albany-Floyd County Schools, a member of the Rebekah branch of the Order of Odd Fellows, and volunteered extensively with Trinity United Methodist Church.
Three years ago, they too helped with the Angel Tree.
"Christmas Eve will be the hardest, " Marking said. "We're gonna go to their church like we always did for Candlelight service, and sit together where Mom and Dad sat."
The Anson's children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren know that the couple will be with them in spirit.
"They would want us to know that they're proud of us," Marking said.
"And they're laughing their heads off, because we're working. And they're not."